There has been considerable debate in recent years over the definition of torture but the controversy has focused primarily on the types of procedures used, and not the other factors that contribute to traumatic stress. A paper published in the April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry examined the interaction between different stressors in dealing with torture. The paper combined two studies: the first involving 204 former Turkish prisoners who had been tortured during detention and the second dealt with 230 torture survivors in former Yugoslavia countries. Information on background, political affiliations, and those factors that determined severity and psychological impact of captivity were collected through interviews. An analysis of 46 captivity stressors measured by an Exposure to Torture Scale identified meaningful stressor clusters, which suggested that multiple detention procedures were used in combination to increase their impact. Captivity stressors included sexual torture, physical torture, humiliation, psychological intimidation techniques. deprivation of basic needs, and sensory discomfort. Perceived torture severity was found to be related to ’cruel, inhuman, and degrading’ treatments (CIDT) but not to physical torture. Posttraumatic stress disorder related to war-related captivity, deprivation of basic needs, sexual torture, and exposure to extreme temperatures, isolation, and forced stress positions as opposed to physical torture. CIDT increased posttraumatic stress disorder risk by 71%. Fear- and helplessness-inducing effects of captivity and CIDT appear to be the major determinants of perceived severity of torture and psychological damage in detainees. Considerations on what constitutes torture need to take into account the contextual processes in a captivity setting that increase the risk of prolonged mental harm.